Skip to content
Home » Youth Ministries

Youth Ministries

Summary: As this century began, we were privileged to minister among those not yet of college age in some twenty countries. This extensive segment of Navigator service had deep roots going back to Dawson Trotman’s energetic initiatives in the 1930s. Realizing that the childhood years are often when one’s moral compass is set and that, in many countries, young people do not or cannot go on to universities, we have been active in discipling the youth. It is revealing to review how widely this has been pursued within our partnership.


Youth Ministries Led by Dawson Trotman
American Youth Ministries, 1940s and 1950s
Early Non-American Youth Ministries
Ministries at Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake
Worldwide Partnership Youth Ministries, 1970s Onward
Developments in the 2000s
Concluding Observations

Children and young people are the Church today, not merely of tomorrow.
Young people have great potential as active agents in God’s mission. They represent
an enormous under-used pool of influencers with sensitivity to the voice
of God and a willingness to respond to him.
The Cape Town Commitment

Youth Ministries Led by Dawson Trotman

Ministry among children and those not yet launched into adult life has always been part of the fabric of The Navigators.

Soon after his conversion in 1926, Dawson Trotman began to teach a Sunday school class of six boys in the church in Lomita. Through the challenges they presented, he was forced to develop and sharpen his ministry skills.1 Although the word “teenager” was not coined until 1938, young people always had needs that an adult curriculum would not satisfy.

The class soon broadened into the Fishermen’s Club for high schoolers and Prospectors for younger boys. By 1929, Daws had 225 boys in clubs in Lomita.

These clubs majored on scripture memory, living the life of a Christian, and witnessing. Daws introduced arrowed New Testaments as a better way to have verses at hand for witnessing, and then the ladder index on the sides of the Bibles to help the boys move around in the Scriptures. Prince Albert tobacco cans kept the New Testaments in good condition and became a hallmark of the boys clubs.

The first memory course was designed in 1928: a booklet with sixty-two passages to memorize; however, only 1 percent of the boys finished! Daws later designed a better memory system, with blank cards and a packet.

In 1931, at the height of his work with boys, God commissioned Daws at age twenty-five for a worldwide ministry. He gave him Isaiah 43 and 58:12. As he prayed for forty mornings in the hills with Walt Stanton, he asked God for boys from all forty-eight states and from all the world, young men who would become soldiers of the cross. He formed the Minute Men team who served for eighteen months as a Gospel team in churches and young people’s groups around Los Angeles. His vision was to “take” the US one city at a time, establishing Fishermen’s Clubs. The Minute Men practiced a “daily dozen”: an hour a day in prayer, a verse a day memorized, a life a day touched, etc. He prayed that God would reach two million young people through this team and increase the club members from two hundred to one thousand.

By 1936, Boys Camps were described as “a fast-paced production, strict discipline, rugged training, which all but a couple of boys preferred to the usual tepid treatment given in such camps. Daws’s wholehearted dedication to the project produced a new kind of boys’ camp.”2

During the 1937 Nav conference, the desire for a Bible club work among boys was emphasized. The following year, this conviction was so strong in Daws’s circle that it was called “the greatest field of service in America.”

In 1938, Daws drafted a complete plan for the boys’ work, all ages. He used Minute Men principles and an “elite corps” philosophy. He began to interview Biola students for club leadership. The Dunamis (Romans 1:16) concept was a pioneer field, in that Young Life and Youth for Christ were not yet launched. He found that teens could be challenged to serious discipleship. Our summer boys’ camps became more innovative and crowded.

Early in 1939, after almost two years of experimental work, the first Dunamis Club was launched. By October, Boys Clubs were operating in five suburbs of Los Angeles and the first Girls Club had begun in Long Beach.3 Daws by now had four or five part-time staff engaged, with a central Bible Club office in Los Angeles.

A Dunamis rally in the fall of 1939 brought young men from eight towns around Los Angeles. A Dunamis Gospel team was formed. Martures Clubs for girls were added. All took the demanding “TNT” (Trust ‘n Tackle) assignments.

Experience with the Dunamis Clubs showed Daws that combining group fellowship and individual performance standards worked better than either alone. Minute Men suffered when group fellowship was neglected. Monthly Dunamis rallies met this need.

Boys could pass through four stages, according to their grades:

  • Regular Fellows Bible Clubs (RFBC): grades four through six
  • Conquerors Bible Clubs: grades seven through nine
  • Junior Dunamis Bible Clubs: grades ten through twelve
  • Dunamis Bible Clubs: grade twelve through college

The girls had a parallel structure under the initials RGBC, in this case standing for Real Girls rather than Regular Fellows! They then progressed from Victory to Martures Clubs.4

In Spring 1940, Daws purposed to spread Dunamis and Martures through high schools across the USA. He selected team members to travel and launch clubs. In the fall, he held a Dunamis and Martures seminar at the Nav home and office. The seminar had seventeen enrolled in a study-ministry program, with classes four days a week and with afternoons and evenings spent leading clubs. Out of this seminar emerged the “fore ‘n aft” memory principle; the Hand illustration; a new memory course of forty-nine verses.

When Lorne Sanny joined the Navs in September 1941, he was put in charge of thirty-five high school clubs! He designed the AlphAmegA Bible Study. Much later, he recalled that when Daws began to work with high school students, he encountered resistance which surfaced on many occasions. The central objection was: “Daws, God didn’t call you to work with high school students but with servicemen.” His response was: “God did not call me to work with servicemen but with young men particularly, wherever they could be found.” It happened that in those days servicemen were proving to be an unusually fruitful group of young men.

Much importance was placed on the design and content of the club notebooks.

Every morning for at least six months, as Lorne tells it, Daws met with the club leaders in a process of ongoing revision of various pages in the notebooks, which they then tried out on their students. An early example of contextualization! Jim Downing eventually persuaded Daws to delegate this work and give more time to the overall leadership of the Nav ministry.5

Lorne later described how he spent a summer holding daily vacation Bible schools for children of migrant farm workers in California6 while he was a student at Biola:

Sometimes I had as many as seventy little people for two hours each morning. We’d sing, talk and color about Jesus. Their eager participation taught me much about introducing little people to Jesus.

This week, I called around to see at what age our six children came to know the Lord. Their answers were 8, 8, 3, 9, 8 and 6. We taught them but never pushed them. In fact, I didn’t lead any of them to the Lord myself. Three made this step alone, one at a Child Evangelism group, Lucy helped one, and another was helped by her sister.

When little children were brought to Jesus, the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Don’t brush past little people.

American Youth Ministries, 1940s and 1950s

Clearly, the Spirit of God moved in powerful ways among young Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. A distinctive youth culture emerged first in the US. By 1940, for the first time, the majority of fourteen- to- eighteen-year-old Americans attended high school. Distractions multiplied and the experience of being a “teenager,” with particular patterns of emotion and enthusiasm, began to be taken seriously as market researchers mined and shaped their consumption for profit. Spiritually, as Bergler observes: “Youth groups proved to be key laboratories of religious innovation, because church leaders needed to compete for teenage loyalty against an increasingly powerful and pervasive youth culture. At the same time, these groups also functioned as social spaces in which to quarantine and contain change.”7

It is well known that most Americans who accept Christ continue to do so before they are eighteen. Indeed, the Barna Group finds that 43 percent make this decision before reaching the age of thirteen. For example, in his 2004 survey, Barna writes: “The primary window of opportunity for effectively reaching people with the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is during the pre-teen years. It is during those years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life—especially theologically and morally.”8

The 4/14 Window Global Movement9 has become active, recognizing that “the demographic group from age four to fourteen-years old is the most open and receptive to every form of spiritual and developmental input.”

In 1942, for example, we held camps for boys and for girls. The Big Bear Boys Camp used the Presbyterian Lodge, with participants “from grammar school through college age, assigned cabins and leaders according to age groups. . . . The whole camp being divided into the Polar Bears and the Grizzly Bears.” Harold Chrisman, Elroy Robinson, Dawson Trotman and others10 provided the spiritual challenge. The previous week (July 20-27), a very similar girls camp took place in which they too were urged “to get down to business for the Lord.”

The Navigator clubs were only a small segment of a burgeoning drive to reach this emerging youth culture in ways beyond the traditional skills of local congregations. National ministries spread quickly. Notably:

  • Young Life from 1941, led by Jim Rayburn (specialty: camps)
  • Intervarsity USA, from 1941, led by Stacey Woods (specialty: student-led studies and conferences)
  • Youth for Christ, from 1945, led by Torrey Johnson (specialty: rallies)

The early leaders of these agencies and others, such as the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship (1938), knew one another and often collaborated. YFC was the most prolific in furnishing leaders for new initiatives. Examples: World Vision (Bob Pierce), Greater Europe Mission (Bob Evans), Trans World Radio (Paul Freed), International Students (Bob Finley). It has been said that Billy Graham built his evangelistic team from former YFC leaders.11

Daws knew these men well and spoke at their gatherings. The circle of national evangelical leaders was well connected. However, the rapid spread of The Navigators among Navy personnel during World War II left little time for further work among young civilians.

One should add that YFC was proving astonishingly successful in attracting youth. Bergler reports that, “By the end of the war, about one million teenagers gathered every Saturday night in nine hundred churches and auditoriums across the country for Youth for Christ rallies.”12

Around this time, Leroy Eims tells how Daws sent him to Washington, DC with Don Rosenberger.13 He secured a job at the local Sears store. He and Don put on a Saturday Night Club for two hundred to three hundred high schoolers for at least a year. Incidentally, we almost lost Leroy! His account: “We owed everybody money. So we decided we would do a moonlight cruise on the Potomac. We got Cliff Barrows to come and be a speaker. We had no idea how many people the ferry boat would carry. We just said: Come one, come all. We almost sunk the boat. It was a horrendous crowd. You could hardly move around. All the money we took in was used to pay bills the next day.”

Doug Coe, Nav director for Salem, Oregon, led several dynamic ministries. By 1954, more than 100 teens from Salem High School were coming out to meetings and 250 senior high kids met in a weekly club. Doug happened to serve on the staff of both Young Life and The Navigators, declaring “if God expects us to reach the world, we must believe He can help us reach Oregon!”14

Doug Coe took over a former bar across from the largest junior high school in Oregon, to contact high schoolers.15

By 1955, Doug Coe and Bud Sharpnack, whom Doug had led to Christ, were training thirty-two fellows of whom fifteen fellows and girls lived in one or the other of their homes. Much of their ministry was reaching out to high schoolers, junior high students, and college students. The chairman of the school board found Christ. The city mayor started family devotions!16

A little later, we were invited to handle the training of one hundred top Christian high schoolers, fifty at each of two sessions at Maranatha conference grounds. LeRoy Eims was in charge assisted by a stellar team that included Russ Johnston and Larry Blake.17

For several years starting no later than 1963,18 we joined up with the Maranatha leaders to give direction to two teenage training camps every summer at their grounds in North Platte. It was an intensive program, lasting five weeks, led by a mixture of Nav collegians and staff. Each program catered for up to one hundred trainees, emphasizing Nav basics.

Early Non-American Youth Ministries

By the late 1950s, we find several examples of energetic Nav high school ministries abroad. Okinawa and Kenya are prominent.

We teamed with Orient Crusades to minister in twenty-three of the public schools on Okinawa during 1959, presenting the Gospel to as many as twenty thousand of the 22,000 students. In addition to 805 students recording decisions for Christ, four hundred enrolled through the mail in the Bible Study course. Bob Boardman participated by teaching follow-up classes in seven high schools. Our Okinawa Rep Bob Newkirk commented that “God opened the door into all the high schools when no one else was permitted to have such meetings.” At one school the principal commented to the students, “Most religions are good only for funerals, but what these men have spoken about today is good for life.”19

Half a world away, we were ministering to those who had been active in the Mau Mau insurrection against the British colonialists. The Shankles’ garage in the Nairobi suburb of Westlands had been turned into the Bible Study correspondence office, staffed by our first three Kikuyu team workers: Rehoboam Mwiiri, Bartholomew Gitau, and Timothy Kamau.

Increasingly, the ministry included preaching in the detention camps, reaching out to those who had been active in the in the Mau Mau uprising.20 Into this group came Robert Howarth21 a few months later, bringing the considerable advantage of having grown up in Kenya and, after coming to Christ at Harringay in 1954, trained at Glen Eyrie during 1955-1956.

Soon, Doug Sparks and Dick Hightower returned to the US, leaving the Shankles and Rob Howarth to decide how best to capitalize on the popular correspondence courses. They recruited Evans Muhu and Cyrus Thuo. These two young Kenyans were to have a considerable impact among the teenagers whose parents were in detention. For example, on their first night at the Wamumu Boys Reform School, two hundred boys listened to Evans preach the Gospel and twenty-five decided for Christ. Follow-up classes were held immediately. It was the custom of the two Kenyans to bicycle to nearby villages to present Christ to the students in other government schools.

However, within a couple of years, the Camps had closed. By then, Ed and Ruth Reis had arrived from the US to lead the broader ministry, based in Nairobi.

In 1953, Daws and his friend Dick Hillis (Orient Crusades) had requested Navigator Doug Cozart, who was waiting in Tokyo for a visa to India, to respond to pleas for help in the harvest from Christian leaders in South Korea. Doug arrived and got busy in several ministries. For example, after speaking to two thousand Korean pastors at a conference initiated by Bob Pierce, director of World Vision, Doug handled follow-up meetings in several cities (3,100 seekers). It was a time of astonishing fruitfulness. Showing the Gospel film Hidden Treasure to high schoolers in Taegu and Seoul resulted in 10,700 recorded decisions for Christ! We attempted to get every convert into a local church, meanwhile training key Koreans.22

Ministries at Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake

Teenage evangelism took place by Glen Eyrie trainees at such locations as Manitou Springs and Ivywild Presbyterian. Bob Foster said, “If the world and industry goes to the trouble of recruiting in junior highs, why shouldn’t we?”23

After a rather dormant period in the US, the acquiring of Eagle Lake in 1953 as part of our Glen Eyrie property led to our first junior high boys camp in 1957: four of the fifteen boys received Christ, under the leadership of Cec Davidson. The facilities were primitive but, by the following year, we were ready to launch several one-week camps led by Don Enright and, a year later, extended the program to embrace three-week camps.24 The early focus was on those from age eleven to fourteen. In 1961, Tom Heeb took over and had 166 boys. Out of these camps grew our Boys Clubs.

In 1957, Cecil Davidson and his crews had prepared Eagle Lake for our first camp. They converted the only functional building for campers’ use by replacing the wood-burning kitchen cooking range with a propane gas stove. Electrical wiring was installed, using a war surplus generator which provided part-time electricity. Showers were installed in part of the building as well as a meeting/dining room.

Cecil’s crews strung war-surplus telephone wire between Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake. However, this failed because rock falls and lightning disabled it. Also, Cecil held classes for five men to learn enough electronics to send and receive at least five words per minute of code, thus passing the federal test in Denver and receiving their radio amateur licenses.25

During 1959, Bob Foster called together a Boys Club committee which planned club meetings once a week during the school year for those in the eleven-to-fourteen age bracket, building around the nucleus of those who had experienced our Eagle Lake Camps. On one occasion, the committee heard from Lorne Sanny. He spoke26 of our history:

Dawson’s verse was Lamentations 2:19: “. . . lift up your hands to the Lord for the lives of your children . . .” These Clubs will be terrific training for our fellows. Working with boys is a great way to make your message live, learning how to get it across and arriving at new illustrations. There is so little being done with this age group. This will automatically lead into high school clubs and girls’ groups.

In the early years, we made the mistake of pushing the guys too far and too fast in Bible knowledge and Bible content. I would have a little more . . . emphasis on Christian character, particularly on honoring father and mother, the life of obedience, how to be popular in school, making friends (Proverbs 18:24) by smiling and remembering names. We developed a group of theologians with Bible knowledge and a notebook, but they didn’t fit in with the crowd.

The idea of such Boys Clubs was initially successful. At the end of the 1960 summer program at Eagle Lake, Lorne reported that, “Clubs are well under way here in the Springs as a follow-up to the camping program. Some campers from other cities are praying for a boys club in their hometowns.”27

Summer camps at Eagle Lake grew rapidly. In July 1960, Lorne commented:

The first boys’ camp at Eagle Lake is under way and is exciting! This year, we have a corral of horses, an infirmary with a nurse, and five boys’ camp alumni working as junior counselors. Bob Foster, Don Enright and their helpers have an attractive, well-organized spiritual program.28

In the following year, five camps were offered in which:

Trained Navigator counselors help the boys develop skill in canoeing, archery, fishing, crafts, swimming, and horsemanship, and lead them in Navigator-type Bible study carefully geared to junior high needs and interests. Each boy can get plenty of personal counsel and instruction from his leader.29

Predictably, a Girls Camp was launched, the first experience being offered in 1960: twenty-one junior and senior high girls. As with the boys, the counselors “lived, worked, and studied with the campers, participating with them in sports and special activities.”30 The cost for one week was $40!

In early 1961, Tom Heeb became our Eagle Lake director. He improved the infrastructure: a generator house, recreation shelter, enlarged dining room. Twenty decisions for Christ were recorded. By the following year, there were ten resident staff at Eagle Lake.31 What is noteworthy is that Glen Eyrie itself hosted a high school conference every year, as well as collegiate conferences. For example, our high school conference at the Glen in July 1961 had Brandt Reed as guest speaker. He was general director for High School Evangelism Fellowship in New York.32 The previous month, Bill Bright was the speaker at our collegiate conference.

A succession of Eagle Lake directors developed and strengthened our teenage programs. Infrastructure kept pace. In 1962-1963, for example, our work crew extended the dining hall, set up five new teepees, improved the archery and riflery ranges and the camp fire circle.

Claude Oleyar first came to the Glen in 1968 to work on John Crawford’s facilities team. He worked on fencing the Eagle Lake property and soon became a counselor, under Jack Hesphelt. He launched a backpacking experience in “outpost camping” with wilderness activities, called Trail Camp.33

Soon, Claude introduced the High Adventure Camp,34 modeled after the secular Outward Bound programs spreading from the UK.

From 1972 to 1975, Magistrelli and Oleyar were co-directors: Bob for Resident Camps (also known as REZ Camps) and Claude for Wilderness Camps.

In the 1970s, we provided for the junior high camp a four-year development program based on Luke 2:52 and the camp’s Native American theme. “Brave, Scout, Warrior, Chieftain” were the four levels of development. Each level offered more challenges in the social, mental, physical, spiritual areas. Appropriate ceremonies and decorative patches were presented to boys completing each of the levels. This was a well-rounded Luke 2:52 approach to discipling boys.

When Bob Sheffield became Glen Eyrie director in January 1988, he wanted one person to be accountable and made Claude the Eagle Lake director. However, the program was peaking by 1987. Though camper numbers continued to increase, the US economy went through a downturn.

In 1977, Sanny had written35 to Sheffield expressing his requirements for the ministry at Eagle Lake:

  1. To tie in with the Navigator Aim, it should be primarily a training program for the Eagle Lake staff. The kids are a vehicle for that training and, I might add, a superb vehicle. Note: Eagle Lake should be directed and staffed accordingly.
  2. Since we do not have a year-round boys or girls program to follow up these kids, it means that the follow up for the most part should be done by those who are supposed to do it – the parents. Therefore, the summer program should be geared primarily for the children of the Navigator constituency – staff, contacts, and supporters.
  3. It should not become a bustling year-round conference center. I suggest that it be shut down from November 1 to May 1 (not sure that there shouldn’t be a caretaker).
  4. I suggest adequate facilities for quiet retreat for small groups of staff, a little more developed camping area, and possibly a kind of duplex arrangement overlooking the lake that could be used separately or combined.
Responding to Changes in American Youth Culture, 1980s

By the late 1980s, Claude Oleyar, had seen clearly that young people were changing. They were becoming less interested in challenging adventures and more concerned about their rights and having a comfortable experience. Claude was a wilderness specialist. Kids were offered many camping choices around the country: band camps, sports camps, special interest camps, computer camps, space camps; and there was competition from family vacations and operations such as Disney.

Sociologically, the cracks were widening in many families. Consequently, despite Claude’s excellent work, we were losing money at Eagle Lake. Therefore, Jack McQueeny had to refocus our vision and to move quickly into traveling to our markets to recruit kids and raise money. Perceptively, he saw that our target was not the kids themselves as much as the influencers, the counselors. These were the ones whom we should be discipling and helping them pass it on.

Claude resigned in 1989. Jack (and Shaunda) McQueeney were asked to take the leadership36 of Eagle Lake and he held this position until he moved from Eagle Lake to assume the leadership of the Glen Eyrie Group in 2001.

An Eagle Lake council of experienced business leaders was formed and our staff at Eagle Lake was reduced.37 Among these reductions was that of Bob Magistrelli who left the team in 1988. In light of the above factors, we moved toward one-week camps and we also greatly strengthened the girls camps.

Starting in 1995, we developed special programs each year for diabetic kids (mainly from Denver) and for those who had been involved in gangs. Mixing some of these kids with typical Christian homeschoolers was quite a challenge! We built up a campership fund to help underserved kids participate at reduced rates.

Mark (and Jen) Heffentrager38 became director of camping ministries when the Glen Eyrie Group was formed. His first summer season was 2002 and, after little more than one week, the Hayman Fire39 forced us to evacuate Eagle Lake. In spite of other external impacts,40 our US camping program greatly expanded under Mark’s leadership, focused on their mission: “To inspire Christ-centered love and commitment through counselor relationships, in the midst of exciting outdoor experiences.”

Eagle Lake introduced the Day Camps at Glen Eyrie41 in 2004, running through the ten weeks of summer vacation.

Then, in 2012, Eagle Lake on Location began. By 2015, it featured thirty-two programs in seven states for kids ages seven to twelve.

The original residential programs at Eagle Lake were strengthened, serving a record number of 2,700 campers ages seven-to-eighteen in 2015,42 with a camper-counselor ratio that does not exceed seven-to-one. For the counselors, some 60 percent of whom are Nav collegians, the three-month immersion is a rich experience of community.

The trend, in line with US culture, is that residential campers arrive with fewer Biblical foundations than a decade ago. More than 60 percent come from Christian homes; another 20 percent attend some church activity; the remainder have little exposure to the Gospel. Our catchment area is the Front Range and High Plains, from which as many as 90 percent of campers come.

Mark emphasizes the Eagle Lake commitment to providing exceptionally well-run programs. It was this dedication to excellence that prompted the ending of our horse program in 2014. The Eagle Lake staff sustain a clear focus on Jesus and the Gospel, leading to His lordship.

By 2014, Eagle Lake had some twenty-four staff of whom a dozen were in their new two-year Leader Development Program, modeled after Edge Corps.

Worldwide Partnership Youth Ministries, 1970s Onward

By the 1970s, high school ministries were forming on several other continents.

The Netherlands

Ministry among such students in the Netherlands began in 1972, by which time there were already Nav groups of young people meeting in several Dutch cities. Gert Doornenbal conceived of Captains Clubs43 for those between ages fourteen and nineteen. Auke and Tjitske Lemstra were assigned as full-time staff to move this forward, being joined in 1976 by Ed and Monica Haagsman.

Doornenbal’s strategic thought was to give some of those who graduated from our collegiate ministries an opportunity to disciple younger people. This is how the clubs began in several cities. In other places, those with a natural interest in spiritual outreach among youth started clubs. By 1980, there were some forty clubs with around six hundred young people involved. A typical approach was to come together in the home of the married couple who were the local leaders for weekly gatherings. Small groups formed for Bible study. Many teenagers progressed naturally into our collegiate ministries, growing faster in the faith.

The clubs continued to be the most dynamic segment of our Dutch work during the unresponsive decade of the 1980s. By 1996, clubs existed in as many as fifty locations. However, competing ministry philosophies in the national work caused disruption in 1999, to the extent that the staff team disbanded and clubs survived only in fifteen cities. Experienced staff such as Aral Dijksman and Ed Haagsman returned to give transitional leadership until 2007. Then, Maurits Roose assumed the leadership and changed the name of the clubs to LEF which in Dutch means “to have courage.” This was certainly what was often needed to follow Jesus and become his disciple. The LEF movement was honored with the Helix Prize awarded by the Evangelical Alliance in 2011, for the most promising initiative in the Netherlands.44

The Philippines

The high school ministry in the Philippines has deep roots, having arisen naturally through teens in the Methodist churches in which George Cruz established Nav ministries in the 1960s and as an outflow of our early collegiate ministries.

In the 1970s, Danny Carigma recruited three college contacts to help him after he became a teacher in Rizal High School, the largest such school in the Philippines. Eseng Victolero was one of the three. Danny stayed in contact with quite a few high school students as they moved up to university.

During 1980-1982, Eseng and his team of college students moved from university ministry to pioneer high school work among three neighboring schools. This lasted until Eseng moved to lead our work at Cebu Institute of Technology; because, as his team graduated, they needed to focus on finding jobs to support their families. In the 1980s, the Navs under Philip Flores developed a national program called STEER 13 (Sending Teams for Expansion to Every Region). Wency de la Vina initiated a high school ministry in his region at Hope Academy, where he taught. Also as part of STEER 13, Gene and Glo Veruaza pioneered a high school ministry in Ilo-Ilo City. Later, the Veruazas focused on the University of the Philippines and Los Banos and also invested in high school ministry, supported by Angeline Koh from Singapore.45

Our Filipino leaders considered high school ministries to be very strategic. According to them, teenagers are responsive, they easily influence their peers, the government welcomes Christian ministries in schools, relationships often carry through to university. As Victolero comments: “We recruit them for Bible studies through their relationships offering food, fun, and fellowship.” However, leaders who can relate well to teenagers are scarce and the ministry is demanding in terms of the extra “fun” required and the deep emotional needs that often require counseling.

By the turn of the century, there were active ministries in Los Banos, San Pablo City, Lanao del Sur, Metro Manila.46


A dynamic work among high schoolers began in Kenya in early 1973, led by Danish Navigators Ove and Anne-Marie Tinggaard.47

Our other staff in Nairobi ministered at the (only) university, but our leader Jim White knew the chaplain at Lenana High School and a teacher at Nairobi High School well enough to ease the way forward for the Tinggaards.

This high school work in Kenya became vital, because students spent only three years at the university and because relationships with the Christian Union were not always smooth. Also, the leading schools were “boarding,” which meant that spirituality (or lack of it) was lived out in a residential setting.

The Christian Union ministry reached into the upper ranks of some leading high schools, so we began working also among the younger students ages fourteen to sixteen (forms 3 and 4).48 This was productive, with quite a few of our fruit later becoming prefects (student leaders) in their schools and progressing through university to become influential leaders in society.

From the beginning, the Tinggaards participated in school morning chapels and visited the Christian Unions.49 Anne-Marie, who also started a high school volleyball club, recalls that “our little maisonette was from then on filled with boys every weekend and a few moved in. In July, we had our first trainee from Norway for the summer, but in the years to come many trainees came to join us.”

Many of the boys admitted that this was their first venture into a “white” home, but they quickly lost their shyness in playing games such as Monopoly and consuming coffee and cake! Ove was good at jokes.

Ove’s style was well suited to teenagers. He taught with many illustrations. He included trips into the bush and used the Word of Life Camp. He focused on the boys, anticipating that the girls would follow naturally. Their first such camp,50 at the end of 1973, had both boys and girls as enthusiastic participants. Many High Light Camps followed. As girls increasingly joined in, Ove’s motto was “socialize, don’t specialize”; that is, wait for God to reveal the right partner in years of greater maturity.

As the ministry spread, the Tinggaards started core groups for school-leavers who had to wait one year after graduation before enrolling at the university. This extra training meant that our high school alumni readily joined in the collegiate ministry.

The fruitfulness of this Kenyan ministry attracted quite a few international trainees from Europe and the US.51 Some of them opened a flat where school-leavers could stay. In 1980, these trainees assumed responsibility for the high school work and then John and Susie O’Hair, who taught at Rosslyn Academy, came on staff and continued the ministry. The Tinggaards moved on to work at Kenyatta Teachers College.

Some lessons that Ove distilled from his fourteen years of investment in Kenyan teenagers:

  • Keep an open home and be closely involved in their lives, modeling how a couple are partners.52
  • Start with the younger ones who are still open and eager to learn.
  • Draw the older kids into the work force: some boys from forms 3 and 4 spontaneously started Bible studies with those in form 153 who were often lonely and bullied.
  • Use camps to connect those in different schools and help teenagers learn how to grow healthy friendships with the opposite sex.

Looking back, Ove would choose to have spent more time with parents.


Tom and Sue Crompton arrived in Ghana in 1981 and settled in Cape Coast with two young men who had been discipled by The Navigators as college students in Accra: Ben Asiedu and Yaw Boamah. They taught and ministered at secondary schools.54 As the economy deteriorated, and the rains failed in 1982, Tom mentored Ben and Yaw in launching several microenterprises. With economic challenges as a background, the high school ministry continued, and has expanded in Ghana.


Singapore pioneered NavTeens starting in 1973.55 We settled on a broad platform of ministry from which keener teens would be identified for more training in the basics and in leadership. There was much experimentation. Our philosophy was to minister to the whole person: mental, social, physical, spiritual. We focused on secondary and pre-university schools. Annual camps, a singing team, Gospel rallies, a youth newsletter (Dunamis) were among the activities, with a high level of teen involvement. During our first year, we worked in five secondary schools and one junior college, using four volunteer staff.56 We had three objectives which have basically continued:

  • To evangelize youths in secondary schools and junior colleges in different and diverse ways.
  • To establish their decisions in discipleship. The NavTeens wants to help young people to grow in discipleship. It is helping them to maximize life potential through a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • To equip adults to be disciple-makers among young people and to see young people disciple others following the teaching of 2 Timothy 2:2.

The first five years saw much experimentation. We decided that we would develop a platform of ministry to a broad section of youth from which keener teens would be identified for more training in the basics and in leadership. Robert Yeun, in his excellent history of NavTeens, lists a dozen aspects of the pioneering work in the first few years. Notable is the holistic approach that was taken, the relating to the parents of teens, and the Working Girls fellowship. Also, seminars to teach students how to study.

By 1978, the ministry was poised to expand. More than one hundred teens were coming to know Christ annually, with twenty-to-thirty teens annually meeting the profile of a disciple. By now, we were in seventeen secondary schools and six junior colleges.57 Attendance at our annual training camp averaged 150 and a larger number usually came to our rallies. Ministry was characterized by creativity and teamwork. We had as many as twenty-two volunteer staff.

Creativity surfaced in dramas, multi-media presentations, folk-singing nights, evangelistic camps, seminars on youth issues.

Teamwork meant a division of labor: we had specialists in music, communications, staff training. Formal training programs for high school staff began in 1980.

At the request of pastors and school teachers and school principals, we provided broader youth conferences to minister to the larger Christian constituency in Singapore. In 1987, responsiveness was so great that we formed two regions: NavTeens East and West, linked by a national council.

In 1979, we saw our first NavTeen missions trip, to East Malaysia,58 and by 1989 we were putting on youth conferences and seminars for the larger Christian community, including conferences for school teachers.59

Then, from 1988 to 1992, we experienced a period of decline. Evangelism was harder and fewer teens came to our camps. Why? Several reasons:

  • Many of our older staff went on to serve the Lord in churches and missions. By 1991, 80 percent of our mature staff had departed.
  • The demands of marriage, career, and adult life intruded.60
  • The techniques that had served us well tended to make us dependent on methodology and not on the Spirit.
  • Our hierarchy had become cumbersome, which multiplied management meetings and slowed us down.
  • We did not stay abreast of rapid cultural changes.
  • Lack of strategic and persistent prayer during “the golden years.”

However, we did launch a ministry to delinquent youth in 1990 and a pre-teens ministry in 1992. Neither lasted long.

From 1993, we again saw an upturn. Much prayer had been offered during the years of decline and more focused direction was given by our national leaders. By 1998, NavTeens had nine full-time staff.

In 2000-2010, we recovered to around 150 teens and had a continuing program to train laborers from among our key teens. However, government regulations slowed the flow of religious teaching in all institutions, but especially schools and junior colleges. Other ways of gaining access to students has been a focus of the work.

As Singapore has become more Christianized, many teens come from second generation believers; they know about God but often do not know God. The post-modern spirit of living by feelings is evident. Robert also comments that almost “every local church has a pre-teens and teens ministry . . . and youth organizations such as CRUZ, YFC, VCF, BB/GB, are much more in evidence.

By 2015, NavTeens was divided into seven “tribes” each made up of many Bible study groups led by staff and laborers. Students from some twenty-three secondary schools and junior colleges are involved in ministry. As of 2014, there were 140 teenagers in ministry through a total of forty-nine study groups: we had twenty-nine laborers and five full-time staff.61


In England, Ian Munro began a ministry at King Edward’s School in Southampton in 1968. Ably assisted by Ron Finlay, he established some good relationships and soon began weekly Bible studies with boys ages seventeen and eighteen who wanted to grow in their Christian lives. The focus was on the Nav basics—devotional life, scripture memory, prayer, sharing one’s faith. New believers joined, and this Christian group became the place to be. For a considerable time, there were weekly reports of new converts.

This ministry is also interesting as an early example of the use of “insiders,” boys who worked on outreach with Ian and picked up much of his enthusiasm and exuberance. He left Southampton in the summer of 1970, having had a significant influence on this prestigious school.62

Cyprus and Lebanon

In 1952, Waldron Scott was assigned to Cyprus where, for the next two years, he ministered to the 500 Greek and Turkish boys at the American Academy in Larnaca. After returning to the US to represent The Navigators in Washington, DC and then serving at the Glen Eyrie headquarters office, he returned to Lebanon in 1960 in fulfillment of the promise he claimed that God would “bring (him) again into this land” (Genesis 28:15) with a burden to reach Muslims. He and his wife Joan continued to immerse themselves in Arab cultures, taking advantage of the eclectic atmosphere of Lebanon.63

Soon, we find him commuting twenty-five miles across the mountains to the town of Zahle where “five ruddy Arab teenagers . . . sit on the floor of a small house in a Lebanese town studying the Bible.”64 These young men, from Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant backgrounds, experience months of friendship with “Scotty” and another Nav Rep, playing basketball and Monopoly, and participating in evangelistic Bible studies. One by one they had come to Christ. Each week, Scotty helped them grow spiritually and in 1962 they formed a Gospel team and visited six other villages in the Bekaa Valley. These high schoolers became foundational to our future ministries in the Middle East. Our hope was that they would reach out to others.

Another Lebanese later led our productive ministries in Egypt. After graduating from the American University of Beirut, he began to teach at a school in Lebanon. Among others, he led two influential Arab Navigator leaders65 to the Lord.

Another Nav leader from the region was recruited to help Navigators minister in India. However, en route, he worked with the Scotts in Lebanon during 1961. After our work in India ended, he returned to Lebanon from 1964, working with high school and college students. After visiting India and Lebanon, Sanny saw the need to strengthen the work in Lebanon so that this team was asked to join Scott’s team.

During 1971, for example, a Nav leader based in Beirut, traveled weekly to another city to work among Lebanese and Syrian youth. He had ten to twenty teens in his group. Notable among them was a man who moved later to Louisiana Tech and led sixteen Americans to Christ. Tragically, on his return to Beirut from Louisiana, this man was martyred. The Nav leader and his family left Lebanon at the end of 1972 for a US furlough and moved to Iran the following year, where they began a youth ministry.66

By 1974, Bob V. reported67 that three streams of ministry were present in Beirut: high school, collegiate, community, with collegiate being our main thrust. Pete Angier was starting at the Lebanese Evangelical School for Boys, to be followed by opening to other schools. Bob considers that youth ministry still offers fruitful opportunities in Lebanon.


Pekka Rehumaki, who graduated from high school in Finland in 1971, recalls the emergence of a high school ministry in the early 1970s.68 Mikko Loikkanen was in charge. They gathered thirty to forty high schoolers almost immediately. Pekka lived with Mikko for several years and handled the high school ministry. From 1975 to 1979 they held one-week camps attracting up to fifty high school students.69

LeRoy and Virginia Eims visited Finland on an extensive ministry tour in 1978. He reports: “As I was introduced to speak in Finland, they played back a tape from four years ago in which I had suggested reaching high schoolers in order to build their college ministry. Now, here I was in 1978 speaking to a high school training program!”70

Pekka married in 1979. By now, the high school group was so large that they had assigned group leaders. They became our first Finnish staff couple in January 1980, continuing with high schoolers. By then, we had a second generation and a third was emerging. Under the overall direction of Tom Heeb, The Navigators had several hundred participants in Helsinki alone.

In 1980, Tom Heeb reported that Ressu and Marjut had formed a high school team and were establishing new clubs and experimenting with new approaches. As usual, there was a summer camping program with high schoolers under Ressu’s leadership. We also put on two conferences to inform parents and the public, each attended by more than three hundred people. Tom records that “the parents surprised us with a gift showing their appreciation for the work done with their young people” which happened to be the first gift to our Nav society in Finland. The plan was for Ressu to begin fundraising in late 1980, closely followed by Mikko Loikkanen.71

Pekka moved to Turku in 1983 and began a university ministry where he worked with us for nine years.72

United States

What about the US? In 1970-1971, Nav staff Curt Archer launched ministries at Elkton High and other area schools in Minnesota. Some forty students came to Christ that year, including Bruce Knutson whose future wife, Cindy Thornton, was living with Nav staff Jody Baker—and working among high schoolers—in one of the six training apartments we then had in Minneapolis.73

Nav Rep Gary Bradley pioneered a high school ministry in Chesapeake, Virginia, from 1971 to 1974. Sixty to seventy students participated. Students from several other schools joined and Gary launched monthly missional evenings in a coffee house called The Hungry Eye. This was an early expression of inter-cultural ministry as Anglo-Americans and African-Americans mingled. With the background of drug use and the Vietnam War, the ministry was marked by life-on-life discussions and a day of mass repentance.

Then, in 1975, Harv Oslund invited Dick and Marti Stum to move to Columbia, Maryland to start a high school ministry. Columbia is unusual in that the city was planned to have half a dozen high schools in close proximity rather than one large central school.

Dick had been a teacher and, after several years of training in our collegiate ministry in Delaware, he jumped at the opportunity to get back into teaching and to work with kids in ministry. For the next thirteen years, this teenage ministry expanded in Columbia. The first five disciples came out of Howard High School. He then followed their relational networks into other schools. Later, he also composed Bible Studies which were more appropriate for teenagers than our standard Design for Discipleship.

In fact, there was a general dearth of suitable materials. Dick comments: “Most of what was written for high school kids was either too easy or too hard. It was either a lot of fluff and really didn’t address what discipleship was all about or it took them into issues that they weren’t dealing with.”

The ministry picked up some middle schoolers, but their energetic activity-oriented lifestyles made them less focused and they were never our point of concentration.

He connected well with Young Life in Columbia. Relating to local churches and to parents required more work, partly because high schoolers can tend to veer away from their parents’ churches as they develop their own preferences and contexts. Dick describes his calling as mentoring rather than discipling, because teenagers need life-on-life coaching in every aspect of their lives, especially as they struggle to form and sustain biblical relationships. Cliques are constantly in flux!

By 1988, Dick had to reduce his teaching load in order to respond to the expanding ministry. He stayed in touch with quite a few graduates and encouraged them toward colleges with strong Nav ministries. Where we were absent, he would contact the local Intervarsity or Campus Crusade leaders to try to stimulate a seamless transition.

Harv Oslund was unusual among Nav leaders in promoting this high school initiative. There was no national advocacy of such ministries. This relative neglect continued until 1995 when NavYouth was launched.74 Dick served for some years as our national leader for NavYouth.75 There was and is, of course, a very close connection with our Eagle Lake Camps.

Unlike quite a few of our other countries, there has been little partnering that pulls in our college students to minister into the lives of high school kids. Yet, “I don’t know a high school kid alive who wouldn’t give his right arm to hang out with a college kid . . . who loves and walks with God.” From the reverse viewpoint, he affirms that “many of the kids we touch are real leaders who can lead evangelistic studies, share their faith and come alongside their hurting friends: They would be salt and light when placed in a freshman dorm.”

Internationally, Dick organized high schoolers in missions trips to Bulgaria and Cameroon.76

Similarly, Jack McQueeney put on NavYouth rallies for more than one hundred kids in various locations. Clearly, this was a field ministry which took more focus and concentrated leadership across the entire year. We had several willing and capable couples but neither this initiative nor Dick Stum’s leadership, still largely rooted in Columbia, was able to provide sufficient traction.


In Uganda, a city mission in Kampala was held by Africa Enterprise in 1986. Navigators were involved. Eric C. was assigned to follow up those who found the Lord through this mission and teamed with high schooler Dennis N. to organize a fellowship at Dennis’s school. Together, Eric and Dennis started a ministry in June 1986 and, after Dennis graduated the following year, he continued to visit the school and develop the ministry until the end of 1989.

In fact, Eric launched ministries in three schools during the three years until he left Uganda in 1988.

As a student, Dennis was eventually able to persuade the head master of his school that the Christian students should meet every Friday. It was significant that such opportunities existed in these schools, the only challenge coming at one point from the head master who wanted the Christian students to reduce the volume of their singing and dancing.

In 1988, Dennis launched ministries in two other high schools. These became vibrant ministries, producing Nav student leaders. However, because relationships are not easily transferrable, only a few disciples successfully moved through the Nav chain from high school to university to the working world.

Our experience in Uganda, which is mirrored elsewhere, is that the level of commitment is much higher among high schoolers than collegians. We found that at least half of those who consent to study the Scriptures would follow through, especially if given a clear timeframe. Looking back from the university context, more than half the Ugandan students with whom we are involved became believers in high schools.

Central Europe

After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Central Europe in 1989, various Navigator initiatives were launched, often under the banner of D3 which we registered first in Slovakia. The name stands for the three dimensions of a person—body, soul, and spirit. The foundations of this ministry were strong because we had been working in Communist Europe from the late 1970s.

From 1992, the D3 team led by Milan C. began to focus on integrated or holistic ministries, launching several organizational platforms. We founded an entity77 to develop microenterprises, as well as commercial businesses and other NGOs. Our strategy was the result of two existential pressures, the search for a ministry identity in the new democratic society and the urgency of creating new ways of funding in the spiritual and economic confusion after 1989.

There was a leadership crisis in a church that had been sponsoring the elementary and middle school.78 They lost their director. Therefore, some of our people from D3 joined the school’s board in 1997.

The parents of many students at this school pressed for study continuity to a higher level and so a bilingual high school was founded in September 2004 after several years of planning by a project team led by people from D3 whose chairman was Daniel L.79 He became the chair of the executive board of the schools which were built on three main pillars: bilingualism (Slovak–English), educational values based on a Christian worldview but open to non-religious students, a focus on educational innovation and excellence. At first, ministry was relatively traditional: it included religious education and weekly chapel meetings, and reaching out to relate to parents, some of whom came to our D3 family camps.

The bilingual high school, still cooperating closely with D3, has pioneered a religion and ethics syllabus, yet with classes sensitive to the majority of students who have secular backgrounds. We do not present Christianity to the students as a condition, but as an offer, thus creating an exploratory community among the students and teachers. This aspect of the syllabus is grounded in relationships, values, and concepts and is a five-year intensive within the school curriculum. Personal tutoring has been successfully implemented under the guidance of a Polish Nav staff. The elementary and junior high school currently has around 430 students and the high school has more than 240 students. It is gratifying to see how the educational concepts and the integration of the Christian faith are spreading to several other cities.

According to Al Bussard, interviewed in 2011, the high school is the best in the region. Many graduating seniors go on to foreign universities. Students spend time with the homeless. Some 60 percent of the fees are provided by the government.80

Terry S. launched a sports movement sponsored by the Canadian Navigators for kids between eleven and fifteen. By 1996, there were two teams mentored by a Major League Baseball team. This initiative opened a door to educational leaders in primary and secondary schools and, to some extent, beyond. Terry’s intent was to develop a national league. Sadly, this came to an abrupt end when Terry had to return home to Canada.

In Poland, Malcolm C. applied a similar creative approach to education, as a practical contribution to the needs of the country as well as the financing of our outreach. An elementary school was founded in 1993, adding a junior high in 1998. Together, the two units now have some 140 students.81

The schools are professionally run, open to all but with a visible Christian vision and values. Most but not all of the staff are believers. Because of the Navigator commitment to spiritual generations, schools and their teachers are a major force in shaping young people’s lives. High academic standards allowed us to demonstrate a Gospel of both deed and word. In addition, the schools are almost entirely self-supporting.

It was inevitable that we would eventually lose touch with most of the graduates. However, we saw many become involved in other ministries or as camp volunteers. There was a diffusion of energy into the advance of the kingdom.

Legal and professional challenges had to be surmounted, from the beginning: dealing with a hostile bureaucracy, discipling in a school context, sustaining professional standards.

One story of a girl is illustrative. She joined our junior high school from a jobless, alcoholic family and enrollment in a problematic school where studying or showing respect to teachers was not the norm. Gradually, she began to experience the school as her home as she heard and saw the Gospel. She would sit on school steps talking and laughing after classes because she didn’t want to go home. Slowly, she learned to study, to show respect. She started attending church, and after graduating she began to pursue a career. Tragically, however, she died suddenly from an illness at the young age of nineteen.

In Poland, in addition to the work in these schools, a Nav leader teaches ethics and religion in public schools.

In Bulgaria, a school was launched in 2003-2004 being supported by Nav missionaries. Some of those who were the fruit of our ministry were deeply involved, alongside others. This school is a member a consortium of indigenous-led ministries founded by Navigators.

In Romania, a school was launched in 1995 mainly by Navigators having the vision for discipleship as a central aspect of its design. It was conceived as a school to serve the whole community, not limited to evangelicals. Starting only with grades one to five, the curriculum eventually expanded to serve students up to grade twelve.

Tensions arose, because some of the American supporters of the school wished to proselytize among the parents of the non-evangelical students, but this had not been part of the original vision. Nevertheless, the school has been successful. While not as academically rigorous as originally intended, it is fully accredited by the government and today has more than five hundred students.82

There is only one current formal Nav initiative in Romania among high school and university students. We invite students every year to be part of a volunteer training program as an extracurricular enhancement, serving as volunteers with handicapped children living in institutional settings.

Navigator missionaries in Russia have had a spiritual influence in quite a few teenage lives. They networked with two local high schools, from which they intentionally invited a certain percentage of students to their summer English camps, and actually held the camp at a high school for around six years. As they followed this up each fall, they mixed high schoolers and college students in their discussion groups and activities. For their last two summers, they organized and led camps which were designed only for high school students.83

In their earlier years in Omsk, the translators would often be high school learners of English, which allowed for life-on-life sharing of the Gospel and was quite fruitful. Through the flow of relationships, investigative studies were started. For example, there was a study in Omsk with high school girls.

St. Vincent

The Navigators of Canada launched and sustained a flourishing high school ministry on the island of St. Vincent from 1988 until 2005.

We concentrated first on two mission schools,84 training teachers and influencing students in discipleship. We found very fruitful soil. Among Vincentians, 48 percent are under age fifteen. By our second year, some three hundred students were taking part in lunch hour Bible studies. Soon, the government welcomed us heartily into the state schools where there was usually much spiritual freedom.

Brendon and Karen Gibson moved to St. Vincent where, after a year of staff training in Canada, they became our resident leaders. Every summer, they were supported by eager young Canadians in short-term programs.

Our ministry was holistic, including health care and economic projects, as well as building an orphanage and a church. At one high school, we put on a new roof and later laid ten thousand floor tiles! Each year, the work teams that came from Canada would tackle various needs. For example, starting a high school library and stocking it with many educational and spiritual books, leading half-day conferences for Vincentian pastors and their lay leaders, and organizing the morning assemblies at one school.

Summer programs brought many young Canadians to serve and teach in high schools. The original impetus for our ministry came via Compassion of Canada. John Sloan introduced our 2:7 program and enrolled thirty to forty Vincentians.

One of our reasons for investing in St. Vincent is that, although it is so small, many of the best students continue on to other Caribbean islands such as the University of the West Indies in Barbados. In fact, we experienced the opening of “a wide door for effective service” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

Brendon and Karen Gibson moved back to Canada in 2001 and, from that point, the ministry impetus declined. During their years in St. Vincent, Brendon had also served as the Youth for Christ leader.


Around 1980, in Germany, largely through Paul Stanley’s vision and John Advocaat’s energy, we had six local high school ministries with three Nav trainees fully involved in leadership. This period of fruitfulness lasted until 1988.85

Declining receptivity and shortage of resources then caused us to close the collegiate ministries. The only one that continued was in Aachen under the guidance and dedication of Kristoff Meul. Stephan Huth, our collegiate leader, continued to lead a very large collegiate ministry in Aachen. Stephan ensured that some of his university students would still be involved with local high schoolers.

Another reason why this ministry did not extend beyond Aachen was that we had tried to follow the model of the Dutch Captains Clubs, in which families start groups in their homes built around their own children and their friends. In Germany this did not work. It seemed that most German teenagers considered their parents embarrassing and did not want to introduce their friends to them! So, we switched from the Dutch model of those days to the Norwegian model86 of offering retreats for the children of Nav alumni and their friends. This was an immediate success. There are now four such events every year, one per quarter, three as weekends and one as a two-week retreat in which we draw at present from a pool of around fifty teenagers.

In Germany, we never had access to the high schools.

Wolf Christian Jaeschke, our German leader, comments that we have achieved a “circle of life”: ideally, high schoolers become involved, move on into our collegiate ministries, stay involved in our community ministries and then send their children to our high school ministries . . . reaching out in every phase to those outside this circle and drawing them in. This pattern is reminiscent of what the US Navs describe as “flowing the fruit.”


So, what was the Norwegian model? We launched “work and study” camps87 in the 1970s which evolved into a more family-focused camp in the 1980s. In 1990, quite a few of our alumni were parents with some of them having teenagers. We needed something different and more challenging than the family camp. Our first youth camp was a canoe trip in 1989, led by Nav staff Roger Kjoergaard. Soon, we started a New Year weekend, to supplement the summer activities. Gradually, the older teenagers took more responsibility, supported by some of our collegiate staff.

By 2000, we were running two parallel camps, one for youth ages thirteen to fifteen and the other for students ages sixteen to eighteen, during the same weeks as the family camps. The teenager camps reached around one hundred participants, including leaders. We have seen teenagers bring their friends who had no previous contact with us and we have experienced teenagers transitioning to our collegiate ministries. Because the camps have been fairly small, we’ve seen the value of investing in individuals. A few of our camp alumni have even become staff. Roger summarizes: “Focusing on individuals is important. Combined with the Gospel and fun, in a safe environment, good things can happen.”88

Developments in the 2000s

  • France: In 2006 Alain and Trudy Germain began to work among teenagers in Paris. This became a safe place for the children of our Nav families and their friends in which the many questions of life could be explored in the context of the Scriptures. The Germains applied several features from what they observed in the Netherlands.
  • Francophone Africa: Some Navigator missionaries arrived in this region in 2001 and saw an opening for teaching children the game of cricket. This spread among neighboring schools and produced an annual tournament. Teams competed internationally in several African countries. This was a low-key ministry which offered a neutral context in which to develop relationships and to model biblical values. One city now has several discipled cricketers. In another Francophone country, by 2003, some disciple-makers were at work among teenagers. In January 2005, an African Nav leader developed a youth work that is now integrated into our overall ministry in that country. The recent strategy has been to build relationships with teenagers who have a heart to reach others and to influence college students who are in training to become high school teachers.
Participating Countries as of 2000
  • Bulgaria
  • Germany
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Cameroon
  • Kenya
  • Philippines
  • St. Vincent
  • Canada
  • Mali
  • Poland
  • Singapore
  • Ghana
  • Netherlands
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • USA
Previous Countries
  • England
  • Finland
  • Lebanon
  • Okinawa
  • Uganda

Concluding Observations

  1. In the global South, even entering high school is a major achievement; thus, high school ministries become unusually important. However, the downside of this is that only a few high schoolers are able to enter the national universities.
  2. High school ministries are largely dependent on outside input, except where there are teenagers of outstanding caliber. In general, therefore, one’s “Timothies” do not carry the ministry load that would be natural in a collegiate ministry.
  3. Parental control is, appropriately, still exercised over many high school students. Therefore, ministry success requires the building of solid trust among parents. Also, legal constraints are often in place to protect against sexual predators.
  4. Pressures on teenagers have undoubtedly increased: pornography, materialism, sexual freedom, lack of attractive adult role models—all these are influences challenging the beauty of the Gospel.
  5. In most cases, we have not succeeded well in transitioning high school graduates into our collegiate ministries except in countries where the choice of universities is so limited that many of our high school alumni gravitate naturally to Nav environments. This issue is, of course, part of what we called “flowing the fruit” in the 1990s.

By Donald McGilchrist

13,341 words


  1. Source: Transcript of Lorne Sanny’s remarks to the leadership conference on July 1, 1959.
  2. Source: “Sketch of Navigator History” for the New Staff Institute in May 1972, p. 4 and 6. Subsequent paragraphs also sourced from this “Sketch.”
  3. The departure of the US fleet for five months in January 1939 allowed Daws to move ahead quickly with this work.
  4. Source: Booklet produced for the Pacific Palisades conference in 1939, Jim Hayden’s copy. Includes a report by Daws as director of the committee for Young Men’s Bible Clubs (CYBMC) plus the Plan of Salvation summarized under seven Ds, the first being the Disease of Sin.
  5. Source: Transcript of Sanny’s remarks to the leadership conference on July 2, 1959.
  6. Source: The Equipper for August 19, 1988.
  7. Thomas E. Bergler, The Juvenilization of American Christianity, Eerdmans, 2012, p. 6.
  8. Source: “Evangelism is Most Effective among Kids,” October 11, 2004, summary.
  9. Source: Google, accessed October 31, 2012. Meaning is four to fourteen years of age. Another potent force, within the Catholic Church, has been the World Youth Days launched in 1986. Thirteen such events have taken place at the time of writing, with up to 1.4 million participants. Pope John Paul II described these as: “A powerful movement in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people.”
  10. Others: Ralph Coburn, Bib Suttie, Norm Crider, and Miss Culter.
  11. This segment draws from the excellent article on “The Rise of Evangelical Youth Movements” by Bruce L. Shelley to be found in volume XVIII of Fides Et Historia, 1986. Although The Navigators is not discussed, Shelley takes the story forward into the 1950s.
  12. Bergler, loc. cit., p. 30.
  13. Leroy came to Washington, DC from Seattle and moved on to Pittsburgh. His Washington, DC experience may be found on tape 2 of the interviews conducted by his daughter Becky Hinebaugh, p. 13-15.
  14. Doug and his circle also launched The Hunger Hut, a small business venture to provide jobs for the men and contact with high school kids. He moved off Nav staff in 1958 to lead The Fellowship in Washington, DC.
  15. Source: NavLog for October 1954.
  16. Source: Nav Log 60, February 1955.
  17. “Dear Gang” June 11, 1958.
  18. Probably, we had been participating for six years by 1963. Correspondence shows that the Maranatha board was occasionally concerned about worldliness. They required dresses for women, no mixed meetings, no movies. See Olsen to Johnston of March 22, 1965.
  19. See Nav Log 77, July 1959.
  20. This uprising lasted from 1952 to 1960, although it lessened after the capture of their leader Dedan Kimathi in 10/56. Independence for Kenya finally came in December 1963.
  21. One of ten children born to George and Violet Howarth who had settled in what was then called British East Africa in 1910.
  22. Source: Nav Log 50, March 1953 and Log 60, February 1955.
  23. Staff conference notes, July 1959, and Chuck Farah’s report on Glen Eyrie training in July 1959. In the same month, Bob told his camp committee: “I’m surprised that our own gang doesn’t know why we are having boys’ camps. The main purpose is for the training of our leaders. It isn’t that we are branching out into the junior high boys work. There is a need and the need is tied in with our overall objective.”
  24. The one-week Boys Camps in 1959 had fifteen-to-twenty campers each plus leaders who included John Watts, Don Enright, Bob Sparks, Denny Repko, Mert Martin. During 1958 to 1960, Enright led nine camps in which 177 boys participated.
  25. Source: Jim Albertson who still has his license dated May 17, 1957.
  26. Meeting notes of July 22, 1959. Present: Jack Jones, John Watts, Denny Repko, Don Enright, Tom James, Mert Martin, Bob Sparks. For more insights, see Eagle Lake Boys Camps: 1959-1961 file.
  27. “Dear Gang” of September 19, 1960.
  28. Ibid. July 7, 1960.
  29. Quoted from February 1961 Nav Log publicity page.
  30. Not yet directly sourced, although the November 1983 USLT report on Eagle Lake does mention that “by 1960, camps were held all summer long and a junior high girls camp was started. Girls camp was later held at Bear Trap Ranch, then Glen Eyrie for several years, and finally back at Eagle Lake in 1973.”
  31. Source: Sanny report to 1963 staff conference, July 26, 1963.
  32. Source: 1961 Glen Eyrie Journal.
  33. First formally offered in 1969. In the winter of 1971 to 1972, Claude married Cheryl and found time to train at the Wheaton College camp programs. In those years, Bob and Karen Magistrelli were the only winter residents at Eagle Lake.
  34. Originally called Stress Camp. The objective was to help teenagers push beyond the limits they thought they had “physically, mentally, spiritually, socially . . . all within the context of Scripture and learning how God uses these things to build and develop us.” See October 16, 2012 Interview with Oleyar. He wrote a position paper on What Stress Camping is All About: see H2010 Youth Ministries.
  35. Memo of October 11, 77.
  36. Some material from this interview with McQueeney on November 12, 2012.
  37. From eight-to-nine full-time staff couples to four.
  38. He served as an Eagle Lake camp counselor from 1998 while completing a degree in organizational management at Colorado Christian University. Interviewed on February 26, 2016.
  39. This fire began on June 8 and eventually burned 138,000 acres. It did not reach Eagle Lake.
  40. September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; Hayman Fire, June 8 to July 18, 2002; the recession centered around 2008; the Waldo Canyon Fire, June 23 to July 6, 2012, burned 18,000 acres; although Eagle Lake was miraculously spared, it was closed until the 2014 season.
  41. Launched as Eagle’s Nest, subsequently adopting the Eagle Lake branding.
  42. In 2015, twelve full-time staff; 187 summer staff; six emerging leaders; 6,466 campers, of whom 289 made first-time decisions to follow Jesus. Source: US annual report.
  43. This name originated during the Overseas Training Corps of 1965 in which eighteen Americans teamed with sixty-five Nav contacts from Europe for two weeks of witnessing and training in Oslo. As a result, 140 people decided for Christ. They converted a downtown building into a coffee bar dubbed The Captain’s Club for evangelistic contacts. Nav Rep Denny Repko taught from the Word in follow-up classes in this Captain’s Club and the OTC men spread out that summer into England, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The Dutch Captain’s Club, located in Loosdrecht, saw more than 130 decisions for Christ. Source: Nav Log 107, September-October 1965.
  44. Source: Ed Haagsman, letter of December 8, 2011.
  45. Source: Letter from Eseng Victolero of October 11, 2012. It is likely that the high school ministry in the Philippines will expand because the Department of Education has added two more years to high school. At the time of this writing (2014), there are some two hundred HS students around the country in Bible study.
  46. Source: Remember God: 40 Years and Beyond, 2001, and letter from Jose Victolero (Eseng) of October 2, 2012. Victolero himself worked among high schoolers from 1980 to 1982.
  47. The Tinggaards arrived in January 1973, leaving in lay hands a flourishing collegiate work in their home town of Aarhus. We should note that the 1950s ministry among teenagers associated with the Mau Mau insurrection was such that it had no connection with the elite schools in which the Tinggaards began to work.
  48. Because of the limited early educational opportunities for Kenyan children, form 3 was for Sarah at about age eighteen, and she graduated from high school at twenty-two. As Kenyans gradually adjusted to the system. Form 3 aligned with the progress of the expatriate children at about age fourteen until form 6 (top grade in the UK system) settled for everybody at about age eighteen.
  49. In their early days in Kenya, they ministered at Lenana High School and Nairobi Boys School and the Alliance Girls School, where teacher Sarah Imbuye (later, Sarah Mutua) partnered with the Tinggaards. Source: Anne-Marie Tinggaard’s letters of October 29 and 31, 2012. In May 1978, Sarah became our first African staff fully supported by gift income, having attended the first high school in Kenya that mixed national and expatriate children. Given the bitter history, racial cliques predictably existed within their mixed dormitories.
  50. Nav leaders Mutua and Stephanie Mahiaini were present at this first camp for high schoolers. Mutua graduated from Lenana and became the first trainee in our high school work.
  51. These trainees (foreign and Kenyan) eventually had a motorcycle ministry, traveling out to high schools around Nairobi to lead Bible studies and meet one-to-one with students. It was gratifying to see that so many of the national trainees came themselves out of our high school ministry.
  52. The Tinggaards extended their garage and installed triple-decker bunks!
  53. One of these first formers, pastor Oscar, now leads Nairobi Chapel and satellites, with ten thousand members.
  54. Source: Paper from Tom Crompton of September 28, 2012.
  55. Our first meeting was held on January 6, 1973 at Orchard Road Presbyterian Church. The pioneering team was Leong Wei Weng, Baskaran Nair, Millie Tay, and Linda Mok. The leader of this new ministry was Bernard Chan. It is significant that most Nav leaders in Singapore at this time had become Christians in their teenage years, even though the focus of ministry had not been on teens. There were many secondary school students involved with the Military Navs, the King Edward Navs, and the Toa Payoh Estate Ministry.
  56. Earlier outreach to teenagers in Singapore included a Teen Crusade, sponsored by YFC with Warren Myers as the main speaker. After listening each morning to Warren, the Christian teenagers did house-to-house visitation evangelism, and more than 275 decisions for Christ were recorded. Source: Nav Log 70, June 1957. Such inter-agency collaboration was common. Nav staff Tom Lee tells of attending a YFC rally in 1959 and receiving the Lord, after which he was involved with Intervarsity Student Fellowship and followed up by Nav missionaries Don Hardie and Harold Palmer, all while still in high school!
  57. In 1978, there were three full-time and twenty-two volunteer staff. In 1979, we were in seventeen secondary schools and six junior colleges.
  58. Since 1979, another fifteen NavTeen teams have been sent out to East and West Malaysia, Kenya, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
  59. Source: Letter from Robert Yeun of October 24, 2011.
  60. During 1986 to 1989 we kept many high school graduates to help in leadership. However, those invited to stay were very young in their faith and often not that active, so that our depleted mature staff had to help them as well as reach out to teens.
  61. Much of the above is taken from the Brief History of the NavTeens supplied by Robert Yeun, who directed NavTeens from June 1999 to September 2011 when Roger Yeo succeeded him.
  62. Source: Letter from Ron Finlay of September 10, 2011
  63. He found time for a survey trip to Egypt, writing: “Pray more for the significant stronghold of the Muslim world. God has promised that ‘Princes shall come out of Egypt . . . and the Egyptians shall know the Lord’ (Psalm 68:31; Isaiah 19:21).
  64. Source: Nav Log 95, February 1963.
  65. One of these leaders tells that twenty-five high school students came to Christ in a Lebanese city in one year, including himself.
  66. Source: N.M. conversation of October 7, 2011.
  67. Source: Country Plans and Summaries binder 1974. McGilchrist archives, box 24.
  68. Source: Interview by Henry Clay with Pekka on June 6, 2013.
  69. The Lutheran Church in Finland holds confirmation classes lasting around eighty hours of instruction, and it was very common to have such teaching in the form of a summer camp. We also had these two-week camps in the 1970s.
  70. DFL 1978-5.
  71. Extracted from country summary dated September 20, 1980.
  72. Pekka resigned from the Navs in August 1992, having been ordained in Oulu as a student chaplain. In 1995, our Finnish ministry had officially closed.
  73. Source: Letter of October 7, 2011 from Bruce Knutson.
  74. Source: Letter from Jack McQueeney of May 5, 1998. The NavYouth vision was “to personally inspire and equip youth to love and live like Christ.”
  75. Led by Allison Daniell at The Classical Academy. There are also a few scattered ministries that are not part of NavYouth such as the Juntos ministry to teens in Albuquerque and Hank Bouma’s work in Grand Rapids. Stum to McGilchrist of November 1, 2012 lists NavYouth staff as Dick and Marti Stum, Dave and Julie Heiliger, Don and DeAnn Fraser, Kerry Fitzgerald, and Allison Daniell.
  76. Source: Audio interview with Dick Stum on September 22, 2011.
  77. Name withheld for security.
  78. Descriptions of these schools draws from material provided by Milan C. in June 2013 with additional input from Daniel L. in August 2013.
  79. Dusan J. of D3 had been responsible for character development in the school and became principal in 2011.
  80. Interview of October 25, 2011.
  81. Sports camps, language camps, a music school, and a language school have subsequently been added, so that around fifty staff are now employed. The schools are now run by two associations.
  82. Source: Letter from M., September 15, 2011.
  83. Information from Ralph G., October 2015.
  84. Emmanuel High Schools in Mesopotamia and Kingstown.
  85. This was also due to the departure of the missionary leaders, Paul Stanley in 1984 and later John Advocaat.
  86. As a Norwegian Navigator observed, “There is nothing for which people are more thankful than when you do something for their kids.”
  87. Serving the government in clearing trees and preparing for a dam. The family camps started nearby, along lines similar to Eagle Lake.
  88. Source: Letter from Ole-Andreas Olafsrud of October 28, 2011.
Copy link